Program provides food for childrenEarlier this month Duluth community leaders joined together to pack kits of food destined for children’s backpacks. The packing was part of a ceremonial event to launch Duluth’s newest program to feed children on weekends — the BackPack Program.
Earlier this month Duluth community leaders joined together to pack kits of food destined for children’s backpacks. The packing was part of a ceremonial event to launch Duluth’s newest program to feed children on weekends — the BackPack Program.
The BackPack Program got its start in Little Rock, Ark., in 1995 when a school nurse noticed an increase of students coming to her with headaches, nausea and fatigue. They identified that the underlying problem among children was hunger. The school started working with the local Feeding America food bank to secure food for the children and the BackPack Program was launched. In 2006, the program became a national program of Feeding America, Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank’s national affiliate, and operates at more than 5,000 program sites nationwide, feeding as many as 250,000 children each week.
“We are pleased to launch this program in Duluth,” said Shaye Moris, Second Harvest’s executive director. “This program is the community’s response to a growing problem of hunger among children in our region.”
Moris said that one in five Northland children is food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough food to live healthy and active lives. This program helps reduce food insecurity by providing a small kit of food that a child can eat over the weekend when school is not in session and they could be missing their federally subsidized school breakfast and lunch.
Although the program is not new to the Northland, it is new to Duluth. In 2010, the Nutrition on Weekends (NOW) BackPack Program was launched and included a partnership among the Superior school district, the United Way of Superior/Douglas County, the National Bank of Commerce and Second Harvest. The following school year the program began in northern St. Louis County and included a partnership among school districts, the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota and Second Harvest.
The Duluth program is beginning with a pilot at Stowe, Laura MacArthur and Nettleton schools as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Duluth, which is serving Piedmont students. With the launch of this program in Duluth, more than 840 Northland children per week will now receive a weekend supply of food as part of the BackPack Program. This number could grow to more than 1,200 children by the end of 2013 as the program expands in Duluth and possibly begins in Carlton County.
The Duluth program is privately funded and is starting with support from Laura Plys and her family and friends, who raised more than $19,000 as part of a Project Joy event held in honor of Laura’s late husband and community leader Patrick Plys. Money also was provided by the Ordean Foundation, Northland Foundation and the Minnesota Power Foundation. Funding is pending from the United Way of Greater Duluth and Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation.
Financial and volunteer support are needed for the BackPack Program. Call (218) 727-5653, ext. 113, e-mail email@example.com or go to www.northernlakesfoodbank.org for more information.
Submitted by Amy Kinney, marketing and special events coordinator at Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.